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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

EDUCATION IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE        89

undecided in the matter. All their lives through they struggled
vainly to reconcile the claims of scholarship and piety, and never
succeeded in escaping from the prevailing confusion of mind with
regard to the place of literature and rhetoric in life. The case of
Jerome (331-420), the ablest scholar of his century, is peculiarly
instructive. In his youth he studied rhetoric and philosophy at
Rome under the distinguished grammarian Donatus, whose
Grammar was one of the standard textbooks of the Middle Ages.
From Rome he went to Gaul to study theology, and there got the
call to a new life. When over forty, he resolved to cut himself off
from the world, and betook himself to the deserts of Syria. But
even in his solitude he had his books with him, and his remorse
for his sins found mitigation in the perusal of the classics.
" Wretched man that I was 1 I fasted and I read Cicero. After
passing sleepless nights and shedding bitter tears at the thought
of my sins, I took up Plautus. If at times I came back to myself
and tried to read the Prophets, the simple careless style in which
they were written repelled me at once."*

It was at this time that he had his famous dream. He dreamed
that he had died and had been haled before the great Judge.
Falling on his face, overwhelmed by the brightness of the vision,
he attempted to justify himself by saying that he was a Christian,
only to hear the dreadful reply : " It is false. You are a Cicer-
onian. Where your treasure is, there also is your heart." Hence-
forward, he ceased to read the profane authors and urged others
to follow his example. But his renunciation was never more than
half-hearted. In the very letter in which he laments his former
devotion to rhetoric and condemns all his memories of the
scholastic learning, he lapses into quotations from Themistocles>
Plato, Isocrates, Pythagoras, Dej&ocritus, Xenocrates, Zeno,
Cleanthes, and the poets Homer, Hesiod, Simonides, Stesichorus,
and Sophocles ; and when he founded a monastery in Bethlehem
twelve years later, he included in the course of instruction he gave
the boys who attended his school, grammar and classical authors
such as Plautus, Terence, and, above all, Virgil. Clearly, it was
impossible for the Church to get any guidance from Jerome with
regard to education. To teach boys the classics, and advise men
to forget them, as he did, involved a contradiction too obvious to
permit either his precepts or his practice to have any real influence.

* Epistles> p. 35.